M&M Motivation



“Clean up on isle one,” echoed throughout the store as a young mother with a baby seat perched atop her grocery cart and her school-aged son cringed in a nearby alcove.  Catching a glimpse of the now empty plastic candy cane holder clutched in the boy’s hand, I realized the source of the M&M shower that had just grazed my head and bounced across the floor. His mother harshly whispered, “I told you not to hit the cart with that thing,” and looked helplessly out toward the chocolate massacre taking place in organic produce.

Universal mother/grandmother-hood overtook me. When I saw what had happened, I instinctively went into action to assist.  I plucked a container from the nearby olive cart and invited the candy crusher to join me in collecting the colorful sweets now decorating the floor.  He looked away and clung tightly to his mother’s leg as she explained, “I have already called for someone to come clean it up.”

Since I had the olive container in hand and because it just seemed the right thing to do, I began picking up the M&Ms myself. Noting the boy’s interest, I extend the invitation again. He imploringly looked up at his mother for confirmation to stay put. To my surprise, instead of encouraging him to help, she pulled him close and stroked his head in what appeared to be an effort to comfort them both.  Not wanting to upset them, I harmonized with her body language and gently asked, “What’s his name?” “Byron,” she said and turned toward the baby seat now active with a fussing infant. Seizing the moment of distraction, I gave it a final try.  “Come on Byron. We need to pick these up so no one slips or falls and gets hurt.”

With a reason to help, Byron happily hurried to harvest the M&Ms.

That did it.  With a reason to help, Byron happily hurried to harvest M&Ms and, when I teased him saying, “Bet I find more than you do,” he smartly ran to the site of the original spill and was scooping up whole handfuls of candy when as a store employee arrived with a broom and dustpan.

With a tinge of disappointment for the game coming to an end, we allowed the employee to finish her job. However, I had just enough time to hold up the olive container for all to see and exclaim, “Looks like Byron got the most of them!”

Though his mother never thanked me, Byron did with a big beaming smile as I bent low to look him in the eye and say, “Good job.”

When the unexpected occurs are you more likely to take action or stand back and wait for someone else to fix things?  Share your thoughts and experiences. And be sure to keep an eye out for the unexpected; you never know when you might get caught in a shower of bouncing M&Ms!

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Penny L. Hunt

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